We have Potbelly Piglets!
They are so stinking cute.
I’m going to tell you everything! This is the first time we have ever had a pig farrow on our farm. We know NOTHING about baby piglets. We have raised feeder pigs for years. Feeder pigs are easy. Feed them – eat them. Nothing to it.
Piglets are a little more work.
Our next door neighbor knows EVERYTHING about baby piglets. He grew up on a pig farm. When he was a boy his family had around 3000 pigs (give or take – depending on sales and farrowing). Boy, have we been keeping him busy.
This is what Polly’s physique looked like last week (just a few days before she farrowed). Her belly was dragging the ground. She was stepping on it. Poor, poor Polly.
Friday afternoon Polly built a nest. Not just a small area with hay. It was a full-blown, Big Bird sized, ginormous, pig nest. She plopped down in the middle of her nest for the afternoon. I knew something was up so I spent the remainder of the day and evening spying on Polly in her nest.
DAY 1: Delivery Day
As luck would have it, she began to deliver baby squids at sundown. I could barely see them. I couldn’t get a clear picture of anything. After watching for a while I thought I counted 4 slimy aliens. Excited and thrilled about the 4 squids I ran to the house to tell the world!
As the sun continued to set, it hit me that slimy, wet, baby squids might get cold at night, especially the day they are born. I notified the pig-expert next door who confirmed that, yes, baby squids need a heat lamp for their first few days.
He met me at the
squid pig paddock.
I brought a heat lamp and a couple miles of extension cord.
When I got into Polly’s paddock I was beyond shocked to find 10 tiny, potbelly, piglets sharing her enormous nest with her. The 4 squids were gone.
Polly spent the rest of the night reclining with her sweet, little litter. Everyone was warm and toasty thanks to my neighbor and a heat lamp.
The next morning they were looking even less squid-like. Some pink, some brown, some spotted, some striped – all of them were fuzzy and adorable.
DAY 2: “iodine” day
Keeping them warm with a heat lamp isn’t all you need to do for baby piglets.
On day 2 we had to dip all the piglets umbilical cords in iodine. Sounds easy right? Wrong.
First there’s the evil, protective, possessed mama-pig who has replaced Polly and is trying to eat me.
Then there’s the screaming, and I do mean screaming, piglets. Just because they are small does not mean their vocal cords are not fully developed. I am pretty sure I have hearing loss thanks to the 10 squealing, tiny pigs.
On “Calling Dr. Pol” last week he said that a pig’s squeal can reach 115 decibels. That’s as loud as a jet plane.
Yes. I believe him.
We got everyone dipped and back with their lunatic, mama-pig.
Later that day it started to rain. It rained and rained and rained. It has not rained in 3 weeks. No rain. Not a drop. For 3 weeks.
The day after my baby
squids pigs are born it starts raining. Of course, my babies are not INSIDE the warm, cozy pig-hutch. They are all OUTSIDE under the stars getting rained on because Polly’s gone insane and thinks she’s Big Bird.
Is my grumpy, man-eating, potbelly, mama pig doing anything about the fact that she is nesting her newborn squids outdoors in the rain? NO.
An additional concern was the fact that it was raining on the (not waterproof) heat lamp. Everyone, including the lamp, needed to be inside the hutch and out of the rain.
First DH went up to the pig paddock to try to move everyone into the pig hutch. My daughter and I had already been bitten by Polly twice that day during the iodine escapades and it was someone else’s turn.
DH couldn’t get the piglets or Polly into the hutch and he accidentally broke the heat lamp. He was one person trying to do a 2 person job….. Thanks for trying, Babe!
My son and I went in for round 2. We got a second heat lamp (good thing we raise lots of chickens) and marched up to save the piglets from the cold rain. At this point:
- Polly still wanted to kill anyone who came near her squids
- It was almost 11pm
- It was still raining
- We wanted to be pretty much anywhere else in the world
We got the second heat lamp installed inside the hutch and began relocating piglets. One of us would distract Polly and the other would grab baby pigs. After we got all the babies into the hutch the hard part began. We had to get
Grouchy Polly into the hutch with her offspring. It was just a matter of seconds before all the baby piggies would begin leaving the warm hutch searching for mama. They don’t stay put.
Because she bites right now, I used my foot to gently encourage Polly into the hutch with her babies. This worked. Once we got Polly 75% inside I moved the entire contents of her Big Bird nest to the front of the hutch. I thought that if the nest was gone it would prevent her from trying to move everyone back outdoors.
The next morning guess who was warm and dry inside the pig hutch with her 10 babies?
DAY 3: The Runt Dies
Polly managed to step on the runt approximately 17 times. OK, maybe it was 7 times. He was TINY. He didn’t seem to move around as well as the others. After the last stomping he was bleeding and looked like his pelvis was broken. He couldn’t walk and was laying alone with his eyes closed. We did not want him to suffer any more so he was culled.
I think “culled” is a nice way of saying “we shot him in the head with a 22.” I’m not sure what it means on other homesteads – but around here, that pretty much sums it up.
Our pig-expert neighbor had warned us that it was common to lose a couple of piglets this way. The sow (mama-pig) is just so big and the piglets are just so small that accidental stomping and squishing sometimes occurs.
We don’t have a creeper pen and decided not to build one (trust me, we have reasons – but they are long and boring). So, we are happy that only 1 piglet got squashed. If a pig farrows in the wild, there’s no “creeper pen” for the piglets to escape into. They are on their own against their giant, trampling, flattening, baby-squishing mama-pig. It’s every man for himself.
“Watch out! Mom’s about to plop herself down again….”
Polly is not as enormous as many breeds (some sows weigh over 500 pounds). She only weighs around 100 pounds so she doesn’t have quite the crushing capabilities. She is an attentive mama-pig and is doing a better job avoiding her piglets. When she inadvertently does lay into or squishes a piglet she immediately shifts or moves as soon as she hears them squeal.
DAY 4: Teeth Clipping
Next on the agenda was to clip their teeth.
What? You are going to cut off their teeth?
Yes, apparently we are. Pig Expert next door says we must.
See those sharp little canine teeth? Those are the targets. According to our Pig-guru neighbor (and every website on pigs) those teeth need to be shortened. They can hurt mama-pig. They can hurt the other piglets in the litter. They can hurt us.
The little fang teeth need to be “clipped”….
with purple & turquoise toenail clippers…….
Top fangs, bottom fangs – clip, clip, clip.
Wanna know what this guy is saying right now?
….At a volume of 115 decibels, mind you. I’m pretty sure “SQUEAK” is pig for “OUCH!” or “HELP!” or “MOM!”
Once you are fang-free you go into the bucket.
After everyone had their teeth clipped they were reunited with a (somewhat) happy mama-pig.
I think we are done working piglets for now….
and I can go back to holding, cuddling, and playing with them.
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